Youth Orchestras

Youth Orchestras

The Mission of the San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestras (SJSYO) is to provide an inspiring orchestral experience for the youth of Durango, Bayfield, Farmington, Pagosa Springs, Cortez and surrounding areas, while further enriching the arts communities of the Four Corners. SJSYO is the only youth symphony organization in the Four Corners area, and its members receive an exceptional educational experience under the guidance of the region’s finest musical performers and educators. SJSYO maintains a strong connection with the area’s school music programs, Fort Lewis College, and cultural institutions such as 3rd Ave. Arts and Music in the Mountains. SJSYO is open to all Four Corners area elementary school, middle school, high school, home-school, and Fort Lewis College students on an audition basis.


SJSYO Audition Information Spring 2020

Welcome to our 2019-20 Youth Orchestra Season!

Taking advantage of our recent transition between music directors, the San Juan Symphony has designed a new format for its Youth Orchestra Programs. Whereas previously there had been three tiers of ensembles, now the program will offer two tiers: the advanced Youth Orchestra (YO), which will be a full symphonic orchestra  including strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion performing symphonic repertoire and awarding solo concerto opportunities to its members by audition; and the Junior String Orchestra (JSO), which will be designed as an intermediate ensemble focused on musicianship and preparatory training for the advanced level. Our new Director, Sayra Siverson, will direct the YO, and the JSO will remain under the baton of Molly Jensen, San Juan Symphony violinist and Director of Orchestras at Miller Middle School and Durango High School.

Sayra Siverson, Youth Orchestra Director
Sayra Siverson is a nationally-known conductor and music educator who has spent over 26 years dedicated to the pursuit of her craft and sharing the joy of musical excellence with young musicians. She has served as guest conductor, adjudicator, and clinician for many local and national music festivals and camps, as well as multiple all-state orchestras throughout the United States.

As Artistic Director and Conductor with the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Program for the past twenty-two years, Ms. Siverson was the first woman to conduct the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Program’s flagship ensemble in the 65-year history of the program. She actively promotes the education and performance of new music by successfully partnering with living composers on commissions and performances of new works. Additionally, she taught public and private school music for 16 successful years.

Ms. Siverson’s orchestras have performed at events in concert halls around the world, most recently, the Sydney Opera House of Australia. An advocate of volunteering and collaborating with local organizations, she created an opera orchestra apprenticeship with Opera Southwest, and her students have performed alongside multiple professional ensembles. Recently, Augustana University (SD) honored her with the Horizon Award which recognizes alumni who have demonstrated outstanding vocational achievement and have provided faithful service to their community.
Ms. Siverson, along with husband Marc Salter, owns New Harmony Music – a company that makes custom accessories for orchestral string instruments with diverse customers like Yo-Yo Ma, Cirque du Soliel, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Avett Brothers.

Molly Jensen, Junior Strings Director
Molly Jensen currently serves as the Junior Orchestra conductor of the San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestra Program, and teaches orchestra at Durango High School and Miller Middle School. Ms. Jensen’s passion for teaching has included conducting the Junior division orchestras of the Youth Orchestra of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, teaching public and private school music in Ewing and Camden, New Jersey, running a private lesson studio with an emphasis in Suzuki private and group instruction, and adjudicating festivals and conducting festival orchestras in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Colorado.

As a violinist, Ms. Jensen has performed as an orchestral and chamber musician in Colorado, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York, and Kansas City, performing most recently with the San Juan Symphony, Apollon Chamber Music Company, Class Act Music, Trenton Symphony, Delaware Valley Symphony, Bucks County Symphony, and Ocean City Symphony.

Ms. Jensen received her Bachelor’s degree in Violin Performance and Music Education from Temple University in Philadelphia, where she studied with Helen Kwalwasser. Her Master’s degree in Music Education is from the University of Colorado, Boulder where she studied violin with Lina Bahn and conducting with Gary Lewis. Ms. Jensen is Executive Director of the Apollon Chamber Music Company and Co-director of the Durango Chamber Music Academy. She is also a recipient of the Max Aronoff Award for Excellence in Performing and Teaching, and is Editor-in-Chief at

Both of these ensembles will now meet at Fort Lewis College on Tuesday evenings at new times:

JSO – 5:30 to 7 pm
YO – 6:30 to 8:30 pm

Tuition: Our tuition has increased slightly to $200/year and should be paid once annually (preferably at the Mandatory Parent Meeting on September 3rd). Tuition Assistance will still be available, as needed. Parents requesting this will now be required to fill out a form and provide documentation. Families with multiple siblings pay $175 after the first child.

SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT AUDITIONS: Students previously enrolled in either the Junior Orchestra or the Youth Philharmonic last season will be automatically enrolled in the new Junior String Orchestra (JSO). In other words, students from last year will be “grandfathered in” to the program as part of the JSO without having to re-audition.

Updated Audition Requirements:

Youth Orchestra: Youth orchestra ensemble placement is competitive and generally recommended for students in grades 8 through college. Private lessons and participation in school music programs are highly encouraged.

Strings, Woodwinds, Brass
– 2 scales of student’s choice (1 major, 1 melodic minor) played in quarter notes at metronome marking = 72
       — Strings: 3 octaves
       — Winds: 2 octaves preferred
– Solo or etude of the student’s choice; strings should demonstrate ability to perform in multiple positions
– Sight reading exercises provided by SJSYO
– Solo or etude of student’s choice on one, two, or all three of the following instruments
      * Keyboard (marimba, xylophone or glockenspiel)
      * Snare Drum
      * Timpani
– Sight reading exercises provided by SJSYO

Junior String Orchestra: Recommended grade levels 4 – 9, playing and reading up to 2 sharps and 2 flats, at least 1 year of lessons required. (Suzuki Book 2 “Gavotte from Mignon” through Book 5). Private lessons and participation in school music programs are highly encouraged.

  • Two octave scale of your choice
  • Solo piece of your choice (demonstrating shifting and vibrato)

Audition Dates:


New String Players in All Sections: Tuesday, August 27, 2019, 6 – 9 PM, Jones Hall at Fort Lewis College

Woodwinds/Brass/Percussion: Thursday, August 29, 2019, 6 – 9 PM, Jones Hall at Fort Lewis College

Changes to Mentoring Program: Students will no longer be offered a tuition discount for mentoring. YO students who are interested in mentoring are encouraged to take advantage of their school’s Community Service requirements and to consider the benefits of adding this to their High School Resume. The time change for both orchestras will provide YO students with the opportunity to mentor the JSO prior to their own rehearsal.

Further information about the new music director for the Youth Orchestra should be available at the beginning of July. Around that, time we hope to have our calendar finalized and some repertoire choices to share as well! We are looking forward to another exciting year of great music and camaraderie within our musical family. Please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have. In the meantime, have a terrific summer!!

SJSYO Audition Information Spring 2020


New students will register at their auditions.  Returning students should scan and e-mail their forms to Cindy Bonitz-Ryan (address below), or bring them with their checks to the Mandatory Parent Meeting on September 3.

Cindy Bonitz-Ryan
Youth Orchestra Manager

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